(In addition to the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy presents Special Merit Awards recognizing contributions of significance to the recording field, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award. In the days leading up to the 55th GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY.com will present the tributes to the 2013 Special Merit Awards recipients.)
For me, writing an appreciation for Patti Page could take many pages in this book, so I'll give you my abbreviated version of the respect and admiration this great singer has bred in me and countless others.
As a kid I remember loving her voice because it was smooth, ever-soothing, super-sensitive, and creatively classic. It was easy for me to fall in love with an infectious melody like the million-selling "With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming," but it was the voice of "The Singing Rage" that would make me a lifelong fan.
She did not just sing the songs. She sang them as if she wrote them, like she owned them. She gave her heart to all of her recordings and you could hear and feel it. As a young performer, she was an inspiration of mine as I worked my way to a degree at Kent State University singing in clubs, making $12 a night as a "boy singer." Patti's interpretation of a song was always something I would cling to. You could hear her passion on recordings like "Old Cape Cod," "Allegheny Moon" and "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte," as well as her signature song "Tennessee Waltz," which stayed at No. 1 for 13 weeks. I was enamored when she would harmonize with her own vocals, which was a daring venture in the mid-'50s. More than a dozen of her singles became million sellers, an astounding feat. She reportedly sold more than 100 million records. Her version of the great standard "You Belong To Me" is still chilling.
Patti was a guest of mine on radio shows I've hosted over the years. Her professional attitude and friendliness are legend. Noticing a touch of jazz in some of her vocals in the latter years, I asked her about it. She not only confessed her love for jazz, but also a deep appreciation for the musicians who played it. Needless to say, her admiration for country music and music makers was endless. Her singing is unforgettable and her personal style was sparkling. She always looked like she was walking down a red carpet. She won the hearts of fans all over the world.
Patti was made aware she was receiving this award just weeks before her passing on Jan. 1, and I'm sure she was proud of the achievement and the recognition it represented. She is and always will be music royalty and will be fondly remembered forever.
(Jerry F. Sharell is a five-decade veteran of the music industry and former president & CEO of Society of Singers. He hosts "Sundays With Sinatra" on radio station KKJZ-FM in Long Beach, Calif., and hosted "Great American Songbook" on KGIL-AM in Los Angeles.)